Holiday Central

Retailers ready for busy season, but will shoppers spend?

Encouraged by overall consumer sentiment: Pro

Neely Tamminga, a managing director at Piper Jaffray, thinks this holiday season could see the return of the ready-to-splurge shopper.

"Conventional wisdom right now is a very tough holiday season," Tamminga told CNBC Wednesday on "Squawk on the Street." "However, we are hearing about business picking up here in November. We see these confidence numbers. We think it could surprise and delight people by the time we get on the other side of the holiday."

Consumer sentiment in the U.S. rose in November at a slightly higher rate than economists expected, up to 75.1 from 73.2 in October, revised numbers released Wednesday by the University of Michigan showed. At the same time, retail sales saw a 3.9 percent year-over-year increase last month, the U.S. Commerce Department reported last week.

(Read more: Rosier view for the wealthy boosts consumer sentiment)

Still, it's not enough to convince Patrick McKeever, a managing director at MKM Partners who covers the retail sector, that the holiday season will be less forgiving for retailers.

"It's going to be a pretty tough holiday," McKeever said Wednesday on "Squawk on the Street," adding, "There are still a number of things weighing on consumer psychology."

Consumers have more capacity to spend this year compared to others since the financial crisis, but retail companies continue to disappoint investors, McKeever said.

McKeever said third-quarter earnings from retailers like Target and Wal-Mart were the weakest he's seen in his career, and outlooks from both companies were equally sober.

(Read more: Overstocked retailers offering epic holiday bargains)

Amazon begins Black Friday deals early

In contrast, Tamminga said a gaming console contest between Microsoft and Sony, which both released new flagship gaming systems before the holiday season, could help drive sales.

"It's about electronics this year," Tamminga said. "It's not just about the mobile phones and the tablets. We think those are going to be important, but we have a major game console cycle going on."

Regardless of whether consumers can spend like pre-2008 levels, online retailers such as Amazon have developed new ways to hook bargain-seeking shoppers, giving brick-and-mortar stores even more competition.

(Read more: 5 ways to beat Black Friday deals)

Craig Berman, vice president, told CNBC the online retailer began its weeklong Black Friday Deals Week promotion a day early, on Sunday, and traffic has been promising. Amazon cycles through deals every 10 minutes as part of the promotion.

"This is the probably the fastest we've had our deals cascading and cycling through over the course of both Black Friday and we will repeat that again on Cyber Monday," Berman said. "And this week, it has really become a season. It's not just one day of Black Friday or one day of Cyber Monday anymore. It has really become a week."

—By CNBC's Jeff Morganteen. Follow him on Twitter at @jmorganteen and get the latest stories from "Squawk on the Street." Reuters contributed to this article.